Southwest Philadelphia residents outraged after caskets dumped at closed down school

Southwest Philadelphia residents are outraged after caskets were dumped at a closed down school.

FOX 29's Jeff Cole reports.

The Pepper Middle School has been closed for several years now. It's become a canvas for street artists and a favorite spot for illegal dumpers. However, no one in the Southwest Philly neighborhood can remember seeing this before.

"There's coffins in the ballyard across from where I live. I couldn't believe it," resident Marguerite Barnes said.

It was just after 9 p.m. Saturday when 25-year resident Marguerite Barnes got a call from Eric Simmons who is the senior pastor of a local Baptist church. Pastor Simmons was on his way to the barbershop when the two caskets--piled one on top of the other--caught his eye.

"It's not something you expect to see on a Saturday morning going about your normal routine. I thought I was hallucinating," Pastor Simmons said.

Barnes says she and a friend cautiously approached the caskets. She says her friend tugged them open and was relieved to find them empty but she's angry they were left there.

"Just unbelievable--both of us were just amazed that someone would dump caskets where children play sports," Barnes explained.

In early 2017, FOX 29 reported on Pastor Simmons' plan to buy the property and turn it into a church with a charter school next door. His plan fell apart and since then the school has remained empty.

"Whoever the illegal dumper was they were very careful. They removed any serial numbers and any identification for the casket," Barnes said.

City police and sanitation were called. A trash truck hauled the caskets off by mid-morning, but the outrage remains.

"I think the neighborhood wants to know who did the dumping. God forbid it was warm and children got in there. It was a very strange sight," Pastor Simmons said.

The Streets Department and the 12th Police District say they found no name or serial number on the caskets, so there's no way to track him. The Philadelphia School District says Pepper Middle School is going up for sale.